Anaximander: And the Nature of Science

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Anaximander: And the Nature of Science

Anaximander: And the Nature of Science

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Maybe Carlo Rovelli need not answer these questions or maybe he thinks these are questions not worth asking.

Is it necessary to hold that Anaximander was an atheist or naturalist and that Anaximander’s break through in scientific inquiry and analysis wholly discredits a metaphysical or religious world view? Carlo Rovelli implies that Anaximander was atheist, and precisely as such Anaximander altered the course of scientific inquiry by explaining physical phenomena in terms of physical phenomena. Admittedly, Carlo Rovelli relies on one sentence left by Anaximander and some additional findings and analysis attributed to him.He then goes on to discuss how, over the ages, society started to base knowledge on empirical evidence, rather than on the sayings of devine kings or ancient books. The beginnings of scientific thought in the centuries before Christ and its subsequent repression by the Holy Roman Empire is interesting, but the book does not address the vital question of how organised religions can co-exist with freedom of expression and good science education. At first this seemed like hyperbole from someone championing a particular favourite, but by the end of the book I was convinced. Alongside the desacralisation and secularisation of public life,” Rovelli argues, “which passed from the hands of divine kings to those of citizens, came the desacralisation and secularisation of knowledge… law was not handed down once and for all but was instead questioned again and again.

Would Carlo Rovelli’s faith in Anaximander hold up if archeological evidence established that Anaximander was not an atheist, or at least not a naturalist? Anaximander's legacy includes the revolutionary idea that the earth floats in a void, that the world can be understood in natural rather than supernatural terms, that animals evolved, and that universal laws govern all phenomena. He suggests that it was the combination of having the first fully phonetic simple alphabet, the lack of dominant royalty and the independence of the city states that enabled this revolution in thinking in Miletus where Anaximander was based.Half of the book is a collection of thoughts of Rovelli about the role of science and its main characteristics: simple but important concepts. Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has made significant contributions to the physics of space and time. He explains some of the most conceptually difficult and densest areas of physics lightly and breezily. Given that these are different ISBN numbers, what has changed in this new version; the original was already 5 star.

The next step Rovelli takes is to try to understand why 6th century BC Greece was pretty well the only such starting point.To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.

Carlo Rovelli’s first book, now widely available in English, tells the origin story of scientific thinking: our rebellious ability to reimagine the world, again and again.I found this a lot less interesting, partly because I'd seen most of it before, and partly because it is more a matter of paddling in the murky waters of philosophy of science rather than the more interesting (to me) origins of the history of science. Published in English for the first time, Rovelli's fascinating debut work pays much needed tribute to the pioneering Ancient Greek philosopher Anaximander and the game-changing theories that wrestled science away from crude superstition. If Newton characterised himself as “standing on the shoulders of giants”, then the two men near the very base of that human pyramid were Anaximander and Thales of Miletus.

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